Study to assess North Adams downtown parking needs

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NORTH ADAMS — Two hotels under development, a historic theater eyed for reuse, and new stores opening on Eagle Street.

As efforts for a revitalized downtown continue, city officials want to explore exactly where — and how — everyone who uses it will park.

A $15,000 grant awarded to the city through the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative will help answer that question.

"As we're seeing interest and development downtown and the possibility of more to come, and recognizing that there have been past conversations about parking ... it's really doing a comprehensive analysis of what exists and what potential is there to have a real parking management plan," said Mayor Thomas Bernard.

Within the last year, the city has seen residents of the condominiums above Holden Street ask the city to rethink how it charges downtown residents for overnight parking in city-owned lots. The city has also had developers of a 27-room hotel on Eagle Street propose renting spaces in the city-owned Center Street parking lot for its guests' use.

The study, Bernard said, will aim to assess the city's current parking inventory and whether its fee structures are appropriate.

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"How do we address the fact that much of the pen parking we have is in reality private, even if the habit or custom and comfort we have is that it is publicly available," said Bernard, referring to the Steeple City Plaza parking lot.

There's a sense in the city, he added, that while there is an ample number of parking spaces, they're not located in the perfect places.

The grant-funded work could include data collection, for example identifying the vacancy of certain lots during a typical workday. The city may also analyze the current requirements around the number of parking spaces that must be available for businesses.

The grant will be spearheaded by the city's office of community development. North Adams was one of several Massachusetts communities to be awarded a grant through the program, which handed out $300,000 in total.

"Vibrant downtown districts that support housing, small businesses and amenities help to strengthen communities by driving local economies and attracting talent," said Gov. Charlie Baker in a statement. "Through programs like MDI, we've seen the impact a successful downtown district can have on cities and towns and the importance of enhancing existing programming as well as developing others, to create new resources for municipal officials to utilize."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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